Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Another Maxine Story

Maxine's Graduation
Since Sunday was Mother's Day I thought I would write another Maxine story.  I think I will tell a little about her first job.  Maxine graduated from high school in 1936...right in the middle of the Great Depression.   Somehow she got a job at the Keokuk Box Factory.  She told me that they made things like regular boxes, ice cream containers and paper plates (I didn't even realize there were paper plates back then...but learned that they have been around since 1904). 

The factory was located at the bottom of a big hill close to the Mississippi River.  Mother lived at the top of the hill across from Bluff Park overlooking the river.  It was a beautiful scene...but during the winter was quite treacherous to walk down the hill.  In fact the street was often closed in the winter for kids to sled ride.  This did not deter Maxine. At the end of the work day she would pick up a discarded box and carry it home.  The next morning she would ride the box down the hill.  I can still hear her describe that ride:

"We had some bad winters that year and after falling a number of times trying to get to work I thought how much easier it would be to take a sled down the hills...but then I would have to store it someplace and drag it back home.  That is when I thought about using a box as a sled.  Everyone laughed at the idea...so of course, I had to try it.  The first time was a learning experience...I realized I needed to lean right to turn the corner...but it had to be at just the right time...and I couldn't take the turn too quickly.  I'd sit on my knees inside the box and guide it by holding the flaps and leaning far right when I got to the bottom of the hill.  That is where I had to turn the corner and ride down another hill...and then make a left down the last part of the hill to the factory.  I did this so often the guys at the factory would wait to see me come flying past. 'Here comes Mackie!' they would shout and help me stop."

No picture of her on a sled...so here she is on a bike.

One of Mother's jobs at the factory was to make ice cream carton lids.  She and her friend, Rhoda, had a system where they could work really fast...the more lids they made...the more pay.  But sometimes there was a break in the assembly line and they would have to wait.  At one of these times, Maxine drew a picture of a fashionable lady on one of the lids and put a short note: "Write back and let me know where this lid traveled."  Then she put her address!  This is not the picture she drew...but it is similar to it.
A picture Maxine drew.

I can't believe she did that....but that was the innocence of that day...and in her upbringing.  She was surprised when a few months later she received a note from some man wanting to come visit.  He liked her drawing and thought it would be nice to meet.  Panic!  She told her parents what she did and the family kept watch to see if anyone would appear...but nothing happened.   Needless to say...she did not put her address on any more box lids.

Mother said she learned a lot from working in a factory...but knew that was not what she wanted to do the rest of her life...she was only 17 so had years ahead...but sure liked having money to buy pretty outfits to wear.
Maxine (on right) dressed in costume she made for a play.
Her next job.....well, I will write about that another time.  But it was where she learned to make great hot fudge sundaes!


  1. Your mother lived her life to the fullest, and I think that gene was passed on to you too. She was certainly an out of the box thinker. (pun intended) I do enjoy the Maxine stories, so keep writing them, please.

  2. What a great story! I loved the image of your mother flying down the hill in her box. I was waiting to hear that the man who got her lid message was your father. :) You are right...those were definitely more innocent times. Thanks for sharing this piece of your mother's life.

  3. The way my parents met is another long story that will take a number of posts....How a country boy from Indiana met and fell in love with a small town girl from Iowa. Can't wait to hear about your summer.

  4. I like your stories of this very interesting Mom of yours. I would love to read how you are alike and how you are different from Maxine.

  5. I can just picture her flying down the snowy hill on that box. What a way to get to work. It certainly beats the old stories about walking uphill both ways.

  6. Your stories are enriched so much by the pictures you include. What a fabulous legacy you are leaving for future generations with your stories. I love the image of Maxine careening down the hill in a box!

  7. I love this Jackie! Your grandmother made me laugh - I love the imagery of her riding the box downhill - how ingenious!